Stephen Strasburg is still working his way through the minor leagues, pitching where most teams are still using designated hitters. But one sign he's close to returning to the major leagues cropped up at Nationals Park on Wednesday afternoon.
After throwing a side session, Strasburg took a quick round of batting practice with the Nationals, stinging four line drives in the five pitches he saw. Three of them probably would have gone for singles, but Strasburg drove a ball that might have gone for extra bases in a game.
"He's under heavy restrictions, and I just lifted them," manager Davey Johnson said. "I figure if he can throw a 99-mph fastball, he can hit."
He'll take the next step of his rehab assignment on Saturday night, when he starts for Triple-A Syracuse. Johnson said it's likely Strasburg will make one more rehab assignment on Sept. 1, and possibly join the Nationals for his next start after that.
"I don't think he can come here before Sept. 6," Johnson said. "That was the date that I heard. But where he's at, the number of pitches, the consensus is he needs a couple more outings, then bring him back here."
Strasburg's start at Syracuse will be televised on MASN following the Orioles-Yankees game and the subsequent broadcast of O's Xtra (tentatively 10:30 p.m.). The game will also be re-aired on Sunday following the Orioles-Yankees game and the subsequent broadcast of O's Xtra (tentatively 5:00 p.m.).
If the Saturday Orioles-Yankees game is rained out, the Nationals game will be moved from MASN2 to MASN, and the Syracuse game will air following Nats Xtra postgame.